Just because you are travelling by air, does not mean you need to bring an uninspiring or tired handbag with you. The best designer handbags for the airport balance both style and function. This can be something of a struggle as no matter how much we wish it were so, the most beautiful designer handbags are not always the most functional.
Thankfully, there are hundreds of choices for air travellers of all dispositions. Whether you want a jumbo designer bag to make the most of your weight limit or you’d rather have a small and stylish bag just big enough for the essentials, there is a designer handbag which is perfect for you. The hard part is finding your dream match amongst all of these options.
What Size Is Cabin Luggage?
You want to ensure your beautiful handbag is not oversized and thrown into the hold of the plane! While requirements can vary from airline to airline and it’s best to check directly, it is generally accepted that cabin luggage (that is luggage going in the overhead bin) should not be more than 22x18x10 inches in size.
After a great deal of research both online and in-store, I have come up with 15 of the best designer handbags for the airport. Each has both functionality and a touch of elegance to ensure your journey gets off to a fantastic start.
15 Best Designer Handbags for the Airport
When it comes to air travel bags, here are the best of the best. Each one has dedicated followers who swear that it’s one of the best designer handbags for the airport. When choosing your carry-on handbag make sure to consider what you really need it to do as well as whether or not it looks like something you want to be seen carrying in public!
1. Givenchy ID Medium Leather Shoulder Bag
This grained leather shoulder bag is undeniably chic. The rich burgundy colour and quality material give it an air of timeless luxury without rendering it boring. While it’s fairly compact at 12x9x6 inches in size, the internal compartments mean you can make the most of every square inch.
The hidden fastening clasp and chain handle make this both stylish and secure, while the black leather detailing adds the hint of dark sensuality that has made Givenchy so beloved as a brand.
2. Valentino Garavani VSLING Textured-Leather Shoulder Bag
A classic and elegant shoulder bag made from durable, textured leather in a range of colours. The VSLING bag is one of Valentinos most coveted items. With a retractable leather and chain over the shoulder handle, this can also function as a hand or elbow resting bag.
The classic Valentino ‘V’ on the clasp mechanism adds a touch of decoration to this otherwise plain bag which, at 13.75×12.5×3.25, can easily carry your essentials and documents.
3. Bottega Veneta Marie Medium Leather Shoulder Bag
A taller, narrower shoulder bag with matte gold detailing, the Bottega Veneta Marie shoulder bag comes in pink, blue, and grey for an effortlessly chic look.
At 11.75x11x3 inches in size, this is the smallest shoulder bag on the list, and as a result, isn’t suited to those who want to carry more than the absolute essentials.
Nonetheless, this lambskin bag is gorgeously finished and has a push-lock fastening mechanism which is guaranteed to keep your documents and essentials safe as you travel.
4. Christian Laboutin Elisa Small Cross BodyBag
If you like to look good on the move and need to keep your hands free, crossbody bags are perfect for you.
As one of the smallest bags on this list (just 8.25x6x3.5 inches in size), the Elisa bag is not for everyone. Nonetheless, this stunning Christian Laboutin bag, which comes in black and gold, dusty pink, and pink, is perfect for keeping your essentials safe.
The rigid leather frame, multi compartment interior, and covered top with its twist-lock front make it very durable as well as sublimely chic.
5. Bottega Veneta Daisey Leather Cross Body Bag
As the slimmest bag on the list (7.25×7.75×2 inches) Bottegas ‘Daisey’ is perfect for carrying documents, slim wallets, and passports.
If you’re a travel minimalist who wants to make an impression this striking, black and gold, box-shaped bag will really catch your eye. The hinge mechanism and gold bar clasp are simply the icings on the proverbial cake when it comes to this unique crossbody bag.
6. YSL Niki Mini Quilted Leather Cross Body Bag
Yves Saint Laurent’s unwaveringly popular ‘Niki’ crossbody bag has found another iteration, and the metallic colour scheme is bang on trend at the moment (as YSL tend to be).
As a small bag intended to carry only the essentials (sitting at just 7.5×5.5×2.5 inches in size) it nonetheless feels quite roomy. The soft calf leather and compartmented interior make organisation easy, and the snap-fastening front gives the reassurance that your documents and valuables will be safe.
7. Loewe Lazo Leather Tote
As iconic travel bags, totes are roomy, sleek, and usually available in various colours and materials. No longer the mainstay of ‘boho’ fashions, however, they are becoming more and more elegant, so there truly is an option for everyone!
Simple, durable, and spacious, his fire engine red tote is at once classic and revolutionary. The simple bucket shape makes sure that travellers can use every inch of this 12.5×10.25×5 bag to greatest effect.
With just one pocket for important documents (or perhaps a passport), it does make concessions to organisers. This is a weekend bag for clothing, books, laptops, and toiletries at heart. The calf leather is at once durable and smooth as silk. This, as well as the treaded shoulder straps, gives the bag a touch of luxury to temper its very functional form.
8. Gucci Rajah Large Leather Tote
With many young celebrities and hip hop megastars on their side, Gucci has become the icon of ‘extra’ and the Rajah tote bag really is no exception to the rule. The grained black leather adds texture to this tote and while the shape and cream interior stick to the simplicity that totes are defined by, the detailing is undeniably ‘Gucci’.
With a leather and gold chain handle, green and red fabric strip, and a stunning, jewelled tiger head emblem, this is a seriously eye-catching tote. Moreover, this 13×17.75×2 inch tote is perfect for flight essentials; just big enough to carry some spare clothes, toiletries and a book, while still being slim enough to slide under a seat, the Rajah bag really is fit for air-travel royalty!
9. Fendi Embossed Vinyl Tote
A new take on the classic tote, Fendi’s embossed vinyl offering can be carried both by hand (thanks to the ornate gold handle) and over the shoulder. At 14.25×14.25×2 inches in size, this is a very slim bag, and that makes it less than ideal for carrying books, laptops, or spare clothing.
Nonetheless, the vinyl material is durable and flexible enough to allow for a slightly increased carry capacity. Though the top of this tote is open, as tends to be the case, it can be rolled over for a new look (and extra security).
10. Manu Atelier Cylinder Bag
If you like to travel with all of your mod-cons to hand, a duffle/cylnder bag is perfect for you. Once seen as unfashionably masculine thanks to their military aesthetic, they are becoming more stylish and more popular.
Now an Insta-Influencer staple, the Manu Atelier Cylinder Bag is the perfect blend of practicality and luxury; at 4.5x11x4.5 inches in size it’s pretty compact, but don’t be fooled – it’s small but mighty!
The smooth leather is durable and beautiful. Coming in a distinctive grey-green tone with delicate stitching, this duffle bag is about as far from the image that the name might conjure. The tough zip-close makes it perfect for carrying wallets, valuables, and small electronics, and the detachable chain handle allows it to be worn over the shoulder.
11. MCM Visetos Klassik Bag
Another small duffle bag which is perfect for use as carry-on luggage at 5.5x10x3 inches, the MCM Klassik is made of rigid, caramel coloured leather. Gold details and a detachable handle make it both chic and practical, but the strong structure of the bag makes it less suitable for carrying oddly shaped or bulky items. As such this is more of an ‘essentials’ bag.
12. Simon Miller Toolkit Mini
Like the other offerings on this list, the Simon Miller Toolkit Mini is compact. At 5×5.1×11 inches, it’s far from the traditional image of a duffle bag (the cute, pastel blue and faintly pink leather only add to this). More of a handbag that a duffle bag, this is nonetheless an on-trend way to keep your wallet, passport, and important items close to hand!
13. Gucci GG Marmont Quilted Leather Backpack
Once viewed as the ugly sister of the handbag World, backpacks are quickly becoming popular thanks to beautiful and functional reinventions of the style by fashion houses of all ages and pedigrees. While other bags may be chicer, there is no denying that the backpack is the ultimate travel companion.
Small and cute as a button, this quilted leather backpack comes with classic Gucci flair! At just 4.3×8.5×8 inches in size, it’s hardly a backpackers dream, but for the fashionista on the move, this bag is deceptively spacious and can carry most travel essentials. The chain trimmed straps and GG logo add a little bit of glamour to this otherwise plain backpack.
14. SMYTHSON Clip Down Leather Backpack
At 17.75x13x5.5 inches, the SMYTHSON Clip Down Backpack has been designed for the aspiring fashion and travel blogger. The perfect size to hold both beauty essentials and a slim laptop or tablet in style, it delivers on all fronts.
The textures, sage leather, along with the unusual shape and black leather and gold metal details save this bag from being overly plain. Better yet the clips can be unhooked for a little extra space, and you have the option of carrying this both on your back or in your hand.
15. COACH Campus Leather Backpack
A medium-sized backpack with a convenient front pocket, this 10.5×8.5×5 inch bag mixes form and function well. The tan and rust leather is embellished with a printed design which is subtle enough to not overwhelm the clean lines and dainty proportions of the bag itself.
The zip mechanism its to the front of the bag, which makes the compartmented interior easy to reach in a pinch; this is the ideal middle ground for those who struggle to choose between its predecessors.
Coming up next is a bonus section where review the 5 most functional air travel handbag ‘types’.
5 Handbag ‘Types’ Best Suited to Air Travel
Broadly speaking, certain types of designer handbag are more suited to air travel than others. Although fashion is very much about expressing yourself, it’s undeniably true that a satchel is more suited to air travel than a beaded clutch. Here are 5 handbag types that are tried, tested, and trusty travel companions!
1. Shoulder Bag
The classic medium-capacity handbag. Shoulder bags are stylish, dynamic, and perfect for the airport. Usually made of tough leather or rigid structured fabrics, shoulder bags are normally carried over the shoulder which makes them perfect for carrying heavy-ish loads. Furthermore, shoulder bags are often compartmentalised with smaller interior sections for phones, documents, wallets, and passports.
- Medium sized carry capacity
- Shoulder strap makes it easy to carry even when full
- Compartments allows you to organise your carry-on effectively
- Rigid structure makes it easy to fit in overhead bins and under seats
- Somewhat bulky
- Not suitable for carrying larger items like clothes or spare shoes
2. Crossbody Bag
Smaller than traditional shoulder bags, crossbody handbags can be carried over your elbow, in your hand, or across your body thanks to the (often detachable) longer secondary straps they come with.
Generally made of hard, thick leather (sometimes covered with fabric) they are the perfect travel bags for keeping all your documents and small essentials (think chapstick, hand sanitiser, tampons etc) close to hand. Some crossbody bags can be quite large, but they tend to err on the small to medium side.
- Very easy to organise your documents and essentials in thanks to their compact size and rigid structure
- Small enough to fit under most airline seats
- Large enough to carry essentials such as a phone, passport, wallet, small toiletries, and spare underwear
- Generally too small to carry extras like spare clothes, books, or an iPad etc
3. Tote Bag
A large, unfastened bag which is generally made of thick cloth and has a rigid leather bottom as well as thick leather handles, the tote is somewhat of an iconic travel handbag.
With it’s large, bucket-shaped interior and tough shoulder straps it’s perfect for carrying extra clothes, books, bottles of water, make-up bags, and… well pretty much all of your carry on essentials.
Too large to fit under most airline seats, it is perfect for sitting in an overhead cabin, but the lack of interior compartments which makes it so good for carrying extras makes it harder to organize. Likewise, the open-topped design makes putting passports, travel documents, and wallets at the top of the bag for ease of access a questionable choice.
- Large carrying capacity
- Over the shoulder design makes it easy to carry
- The un-compartmented interior makes it perfect for carrying spare clothes etc
- Too large to go under airline seats
- Totes have a habit of swallowing smaller items which can make check-in stressful
4. Duffle Bag
Otherwise known as a kit bag, the duffle bag is perhaps the ultimate functional carry-on bag. With a tough, but not rigid, structure usually made of tough synthetic fabrics or leather (to ensure water resistance) the duffle bag is made for carrying clothes, toiletries, and other essentials as either a carry-on or weekend bag.
With two sets of handles, these bags can be carried in-hand or over the shoulder and can carry many kinds of objects thanks to their fluid structure. Their layout can make it less than convenient to get things out of them at short notice.
- Huge carrying capacity
- Generally water resistant
- Will fit in most airline overhead compartments
- Shoulder carrying straps make carrying heavy weights easier
- Can be too large for under the seat storage
- Can become very heavy quickly
- Huge capacity makes finding anything inside more difficult
If the duffle bag is the ultimate carry-all and the shoulder bag is the perfect mix of form and function, the backpack is an organisers dream. Varying in size from the tiny and cute Fjallraven Kanken backpacks that have become so popular to huge, military-style rucksacks they can as stylish as any shoulder and practical as a duffle bag.
The downside to backpacks is that they tend to be less chic than over the shoulder bags. The larger capacity, organisational benefits, and the fact that you’re carrying the load on both shoulders offsets this for many people.
- Large carrying capacity
- Weight spread over both shoulders
- Many compartments allow for total organisation
- Less glamorous than single shoulder options
Which are the best designer handbags for the Airport? Truthfully, it depends on how you like to travel; while handbags are a form of self-expression, they are also primarily functional fashion pieces.
With that in mind, you should choose a bag which is, first and foremost, capable of carrying the items you need and, secondly, which gives you joy. If you can find a bag that does both, you have found the best travel handbag for you!
Before you go, I have put together a review of the most elegant designer handbags in a collection that I think you will enjoy.